With the Hellfire Gala commencement this week signaling the relaunch of the core X-Men title with a new democratically elected team, Hickman’s Dawn of X era is coming to a close. Marvel’s attempt to collect the entire run of X-books in a nearly-monthly chronological collection was an curious experiment that has largely been effective. We have been treated to focused reprints of runs from single titles, but by gathering issues from across the X-line into what amounts to an anthology collection, these books have given the current era of X books a coherence and unity that was fitting for the Krakoan age.
Let’s take a look at the individual issues collected in this, the 16th volume. All of these issues were published right as X of Swords (last summer’s X-Men crossover) was about to hit, and appreciatively most of the books presented here move the titles into that larger event. In the case of Excalibur #11-12, Tini Howard’s Otherworldly conflict acts most noticeably as a tie-in to the bloody competition to come. Howard’s Betsy Braddock and Apocalypse have been standout stars of this run, giving both protagonists creative interactions that seem perfectly in keeping with the current X-universe. Marcus To’s pencil work is strong, with just the right fantastical flourishes to complement the mystical tale.
The X-Force issues (#11-12) put a bookmark in the story’s ongoing conflict with Russia and the moral conundrum the mutant homeland faces in working with its foes and villains. I have not been entirely sold on the real-politic version of Beast present in this run, but it does set up some stimulating questions about the responsibility these superheroes have to each other when Krakoa’s new laws are skirted. Clearly, his fellow teammates in X-Force also have difficulties with Beast’s approach, as noted in the final scene from issue #12.
The larger narrative contained in these issues will likely be returned to, but it also acts courteously as a precursor to the X of Swords event to come. Benjamin Percy should be commended for giving this title a distinct voice, which genuinely acted as the core X-Men team while Hickman’s issues worked as worldbuilding. Jan Bazaldua’s pencils are fine, but often fail to capture the same terror and horror of Joshua Cassara’s work on previous issues.
We also get the single Storm Giant-Size X-Men issue, providing the strongest sign yet that Storm will play a key role in the coming human/mutant/machine conflict. The X-books have been teasing Ororo’s place in this conflict since the dawn of the Hickman era, but here we get an entire book dedicated to her confrontation with the techno-organic virus within her. This is a direct continuation from Hickman’s previous Giant-Size issue concentrated on Fantomex, with the pocket universe imagined in that title playing a pivotal role in this storyline. Russell Dauterman’s clean and crisp line work gives Storm grandeur and magnificence, but it’s in the creative paneling during conflict that this book really shines. Some of his best layout work can be found in this issue.
Like with previous collections in this series, we are treated to a few variant covers and sketch pages at the end of the book. Perhaps it is a misprint, but the back of this trade claims X-Men #12 is collected, but I could not locate this issue in the version reviewed here. It seems fitting that this issue of X-Men would be included here, as it also sets the stage for X of Swords, revealing Akaroa’s less than friendly intentions. Had it been here, this trade would act as a perfect prequel companion to the recently released X of Swords hardcover.
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